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Son’s girlfriend creates barriers

Posted June 15, 2011, at 7:14 p.m.

Q. Our son graduated from college after five long years and is now back at home.

The plan is for him to join the military, but in the meantime he’s sleeping a lot, socializing with friends and kind of looking for work but his on-again-off-again girlfriend is a big problem.

My husband hates her. Three years ago she and our son told us (not asked us) that they were getting married, apparently because her parents were moving out of state. She didn’t want to go so they decided that they would marry and move to the West Coast where he was going to school, even though we live on the East Coast.

We then told our son, “go ahead, but we will no longer support you in school,” and then we met with her family — without our son — to see if they were really behind this idea.

That’s when the problem developed. My husband did not like the attitude of the girlfriend, who said that she was going to do what she wanted to do no matter what anyone thought. No wedding took place, however, and she moved away with her family but then convinced them to move back.

Our son finished school but he still has the same girlfriend, so the problem continues.  I don’t mind her — she’s polite to me — but my husband still seriously dislikes her.  The few times that she has been to our house with our son I’ve felt caught in the middle because my husband hates having someone visit whom he doesn’t respect. What do I do?

A. As one wise mother once wrote, ”Nothing is the hardest thing to do.”

And yet that’s just what you must do: nothing.

You and your husband, who have done so much for your son for so long, are going through a big change.

When your son was born, you fed him, dressed him, rocked him and cared for him, and for years you told him what to do and when to do it. As he grew up, however, he became more self-sufficient and he began to run errands for you and clean the gutters, mow the lawn and bring in the groceries, which taught him a few skills and let him pay you back a bit for buying all those clothes that he needed and all those toys that he wanted and for sending him to school and on to college, too.

Now, however, your parenting job is basically done and it’s time to let your son go. As long as he gets an honest, safe and legal job and his friends have the same good values that he has, you really don’t have the right to tell your son how to live his life or who he should marry. Your husband may not like your son’s girlfriend, or her attitude either, but he has told his son what he thinks of her and that is quite enough. Now he should accept her into his home simply because he trusts his son’s judgment.

You also shouldn’t fret about their relationship, because you can’t know what the future will bring.

Although this young woman may seem spoiled or immature or dependent, it doesn’t mean that she always will be. You only have to look at your high school yearbook to realize that most of the hot shots in your senior class seem pretty tepid today while some of the students you dismissed so easily are now setting the world on fire.

It never helps to count your calamities before they hatch. Your son may marry this girl — or he may not. They may have a short and stormy “starter marriage” or it may last a lifetime. Only one thing is certain: Your son will be tested one day — because everyone gets tested — and you won’t be able to do a thing about it. He’ll handle it pretty well, however, if you and your husband start listening to him quietly while he tries to define his plans; if you ask occasional but pertinent questions to help him work through any logjams he confronts and if you cheer him on when life seems tougher than he is.

Send questions to advice@margueritekelly.com or to Box 15310, Washington, D.C. 20003.

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